National Mental Illness Awareness Week
In 1990, the U.S. Congress designated a full week in the beginning of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week(MIAW) in appreciation of the advocacy work and outreach done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI). During this week, NAMI affiliates, mental health advocates and social workers from across the country collaborate to produce, promote and sponsor a variety of mental health related events, such as health fairs, candlelight vigils and benefit runs. These events are designed to promote community outreach and public education regarding mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others. The stigma surrounding mental illnesses can be a potential barrier that prevents people in need of treatment from actually obtaining it. The fear of stigmatization can lead to denial and even refusal to accept help. Efforts like MIAW are designed to create community awareness and discussion to extinguish those stigmas and further advocate for better treatment and recovery. Since its inception, MIAW has provided an outlet for all NAMI state organizations and affiliates across the country to work together and further their goals of educating communities, promoting sensitivity and understanding and raising awareness for the issues surrounding mental illnesses. NAMI is a grassroots organization, founded in 1979 as a nationwide advocacy group representing American individuals and families affected by mental illness. It is dedicated to helping build better lives for the millions of Americans struggling with mental illness. NAMI assists in building healthier lives, providing affiliate information, offering referral services and encouraging participation of community members. The organization has national representation in all 50 states, with more than 1,200 affiliates dedicated to providing free services. NAMI also supports evidence-based, outreach-oriented practices and promotes Assertive Community Treatment, a program that assists severely mentally disabled individuals with treatment, rehabilitation and support. Because mental illness affects the lives of at least one in four adults, organizations such as NAMI and clinically trained social workers are crucial to helping people alleviate the effects of illnesses that impact their quality of daily life. Social workers also provide most of the country’s mental health services in a variety of settings, such as community mental health programs, hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. According to government sources, 60 percent of mental health professionals are clinically trained social workers.